Meet Athalia

Athalia Irwansjah

In 2016 ANU graduated its 100,000th alumnus. ANU Reporter asked ATHALIA IRWANSJAH BA/BAS (Korean) ’13, MA Asia-Pacific Studies (Hons) ’16, about her time at University and how it felt to be part of the next generation of ANU alumni.

I was born and raised in the nation’s capital and commenced my studies at ANU in 2008 following my father who is also an ANU alumnus.

I remember attending a ‘Be an Asian Studies student for a day’ session at ANU in year 9 or 10. I was studying Japanese and wanted to see where my appetite for languages could take me.

The University’s ‘Year in Asia’ program really piqued my interest and I was set on applying ever since.

By the time I was ready to apply for ANU, I had taken more of an interest in Korean and elected to choose it as my language major. I enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Asian Studies (Specialist) where I took majors in international relations and linguistics.

I encountered a Korean student in one of my first-year classes and began a language exchange. This continued for many years and we still keep in touch.The diversity of ANU students makes it easy to meet people from around the world. I was able to utilise the language I had learnt in the classroom and apply it almost immediately.

ANU has been a formative part of my life.

The Korean Studies lecturers have always been incredibly supportive and encouraging over my time at ANU.

In my third year, I took a year off to teach English in the South Korean countryside.

After I came back to Australia, I was due to return to South Korea the following year to undertake my highly anticipated ‘Year in Asia’.

At the time, ANU had recently signed an MOU with Yonsei University, one of South Korea’s highly renowned universities. A scholarship for ANU students to study at Yonsei was introduced soon after and I was fortunate to be selected as a recipient.

I was also successful in receiving an additional scholarship from the Australia-Korea Foundation.

During my time at Yonsei, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard was invited to the university to give a speech on Australian-Korean relations. That was an interesting experience!

After completing my undergraduate degree, I was unsure of my next steps. A month out of academia, I felt compelled to return to university. I applied for a scholarship managed by the Korea Institute at ANU and within six months, I returned to the University.

I commenced my Master of Arts (Asia-Pacific Studies) with Honours in mid-2014.

I opted to undertake internships during my master’s degree. Under the Australian National Internships Program, I was placed at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute for three months.

I was also a member of the 2015 Asia Pacific Week committee, one of the largest international youth conferences on studies of Asia and the Pacific. I had the opportunity to arrange panels and meet with like-minded individuals.

I joined the Australian Taxation Office in October 2015.

The knowledge and experience I gained from ANU has been applicable on an everyday basis. I’m based in the international area and my work focuses on capability development in Asia and the Pacific.

I continue to be involved in a range of activities promoting Asia-Pacific studies in Australia.

I’m a Go Global Ambassador for the Asia Education Foundation and became a volunteer at the National Library of Australia in 2015, where I’ve assisted with the Indonesian materials collection.

In 2016 I was part of the Embassy of Indonesia’s showcase at the National Multicultural Festival. I also joined the National Australia Indonesia Language Awards committee in 2016.

Not only do I have the privilege of being the 100,000th alumnus of ANU, but I was lucky enough to graduate in the same ceremony as my partner. We met here. ANU has been a formative part of my life.